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Right scroll for a brief summary.
Read Mark Preston's full Chief Executive Statement
in our latest Annual Review from page 13.
Our urban property business continued to benefit from the sectoral and geographic diversification we have implemented since the early 1950s. Revenue profit, which is the main metric by which we measure our property performance, increased to £99.7m compared to £39.7m in 2020. Total return of 5.2%, compared to (2.4)% for 2020 was helped by positive revaluations.
Within the food and agtech sector, we continued to invest in our existing portfolio as well as in five new businesses – committing more than £80m. The new investments build upon and diversify the portfolio by adding exposure to exciting subsectors such as fermented protein and plant-based meat alternatives, offering new technologies that we believe will deliver benefits across the food supply chain, from producers
Our rural estates’ commercial activities are predominantly centred around Grosvenor Farms, one of the leading dairy and arable farms in the UK, a rural property portfolio of more than 700 properties and, from this year, a new timber production venture – Grosvenor TimberWorks. Over the past year, Grosvenor Farms was able to maintain its strong performance with an average production of 12,079 litres per cow per annum, 30% more than the typical yield recorded in the UK. Yet, poor weather during the later stages of the harvest created challenging conditions for yields of combinable crops from our arable activities. Meanwhile, our rural property portfolio continued to be negatively impacted by Covid as we maintained our support for vulnerable retail occupiers via rent relief or deferrals. Our office and residential assets recovered more strongly, also benefiting from a growing demand for rural living.
Our focus on efficiently using natural resources, restoring and enhancing the environment is both of local and global benefit. This year, we made good progress towards reducing our carbon emissions to achieve net zero in our directly-managed operations by 2030 and to be fully net zero by 2050. We are well advanced with establishing a baseline audit of the amount of carbon our property activities produce and are working to understand and publish the carbon impact of our wider commercial activities. We have ambitious strategies to substantially reduce our carbon impact before the balance is offset through high-quality schemes. We don’t yet have all the answers, and best practice guidance on how to assess and therefore tackle emissions from industrial carbon (e.g. created by the built environment), and specifically, biogenic carbon (e.g. that emitted by the soil), is still evolving.
We believe that success in addressing the needs of our communities is an inherently local challenge. We conducted a multi-year consultation to re-imagine and transform Grosvenor Square, which we first created in the 1720s, into an exceptional green space for central London. We made a £1m+ investment fund available in the UK to invest in community-led climate action through activities including air quality, recycling or biodiversity initiatives. And we organised country visits for children in urban and rural primary schools to improve understanding of the countryside.
The Grosvenor family has a longstanding track record of supporting charitable initiatives and continuing this tradition is a priority of the Duke of Westminster via the Westminster Foundation. By supporting the charitable activities of the Westminster Foundation, long-term sustainable help and direction is being provided to children and young people early in life (aged 0-25) through opportunities to thrive, build confidence and raise aspirations. Aligned initiatives are also recommended by our local teams and within locations where we commit to third-party managed investments.
We have reviewed our urban property, food and agtech and rural estates strategies to respond to dramatic economic, technological, social and environmental changes affecting our businesses, their financial returns and our communities.
In addition, by simplifying our governance and management structures, we are now presenting Grosvenor more cohesively and promoting more collaboration and innovation across our teams.
Pursuing the ambition to grow and further diversify our international property business, we will focus our efforts and capital allocation on two main priorities.
First, our UK and North American property businesses will further expand their focus on places that are dynamic, diverse and well connected, diversifying our rental income and sectoral mix.
Second, we want to significantly expand our Diversified Property Investments business which, over the past 10 years, has successfully developed a third-party co-investment model where we invest alongside specialist managers via joint ventures and funds. We believe this will give us access to new markets and sectors offering growth and diversification opportunity.
Within our Food & AgTech business, we have moved to a new partnership model to lead its next phase of development, while retaining 100% ownership of the business. Our ambition is to continue to invest significantly in our portfolio as well as in new opportunities ranging from relatively new ventures through to established, later stage businesses.
Common to these investments is a desire to bring our resources, skills and knowledge to help scale up the positive impact of technology and data analytics to create a better food system – one that enhances the health benefits of food, makes food production more efficient and environmentally sustainable, while rewarding producers fairly, so that they can continue to invest in better practices.
And finally, within our rural estates, the development of a 25-year strategy is looking to help us better contribute to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of those local communities by preserving, restoring and enhancing the local environment, improving financial sustainability, investing in people and co-operating with a broad range of stakeholders to help us advance our goals.